“Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?” (James 4:11-12)
This week we are working on foolish responses to God’s Word and its application. So far, we have examined: the failure to live by what we believe (hearers but not doers), neglecting our neighbors (not doing what we ought to do) and seeking favors from people with bribes or gifts. We come now to the sin of judgmentalness, characteristic of all people because we are all born in sin. Our sinful pride causes us to be self-righteous which leads to judgmentalness. We wrongly assume we are right (or okay), and as if that weren’t enough, we compare ourselves to others to justify our inaccurate self-assessment. But we only choose those who are inferior to us in some way, or the whole scheme fails. Criticizing others, either verbally or mentally, misdirects our self-examination to escape God’s standard for our conduct, attitudes, and motivations.
James offers an excellent way to appreciate the seriousness of judgmentalness by exposing its intention to place oneself above the law as if we can pass judgment on God’s commands. The command of Jesus is clear, “Judge not, that you be not judged” (Matthew 7:1). If I permit my judgmentalness without self-restraint or conviction, I negate this mandate. “There is only one lawgiver;” “the Lord is our judge” (Isaiah 33:22). If we foolishly criticize others liberally, either mentally or verbally (or both), either directly or indirectly (through gossip), we have judged God’s law and opposed his authority as the only righteous judge and evaluator of people. God says, “Be holy as I am holy.” We say, “I am more holy than him; therefore, I am holy enough.” God declares this prideful, evil, and hypocritical.
“Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye” (Luke 6:41-42)
Will you search for the log in your eye, your character defects, and faults, with Christ’s help and forgiveness rather than look for specs in the eyes of others? Jesus calls us to humble self-examination and gives us grace to love our neighbors, with all their flaws.
For further study see Matthew 7:1-5; Luke 6:37-38; Romans 14:13; 1 Corinthians 4:4b-5; James 5:9.